Fat Pet Facts-The Ills of Obesity by Jordan Walker

Jordan Walker wears his passion for animals on his sleeve. He writes for Coops And Cages and other blogs where he shares his vast reservoir of knowledge about our favorite furballs. In this article, he enlightens us on why obesity can only offer more harm than health to our pets.

When it comes to pet animals, obesity seems to be a forgivable condition, even preferred sometimes because of a perceived increase in cuteness. Owners may even view an obese pet as well-loved and properly taken care of. However, as in humans, obesity in pets is a nutritional disease that should be reversed to prevent other health problems from developing.

Fat Pet Facts


According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 57.6% of cats and 52.6% of dogs in the US are overweight or obese. In the UK, more dogs are diagnosed obese than cats at 45% versus 40%. The British poll further concluded that pet rabbits and birds in the country are also obese at 28% and 15%, respectively.

The Pet Food Manufacturers Association in the UK points out the primary causes of pet obesity are overfeeding and under-exercising. This is in part because most pet owners do not know what the proper, healthy size for their pets is. Owners are also unaware of the life-limiting effects of obesity on their furry ones. A majority of them feel there are more important pet health concerns than being overweight. This is true in both the US and UK.

Love Versus Overfeeding

Pet owners tend to view feeding as an expression of love and reward. The more the owners feel the love, the more they treat their pets, contributing to overeating habits. If that’s not enough, owners can be guilty of treating their pets with table leftovers, another important no-no, given that many human foods are unhealthy and even toxic to pets.

While dogs get fat due to lack of exercise and too much food, cats tend to plump up when they have too much dry food. Being exclusive carnivores, cats fed entirely with dry food overload on carbs.However, when the vet tries to interveneand curb emerging weight issues, he/she gets treated to a range of excuses.

True Costs of Obesity

Obesity in pets can be viewed by anti-animal cruelty organizations as a form of neglect. In fact, multiple owners have been sued forraising dangerously obese pets. A distressing case in the UK in 2006 involved a chocolate Labrador retriever that was allowed to become so obese that he looked like a seal and only able to waddle like one instead of walk. Of course, these incidents presume the pet is not suffering from an underlying medical condition, like hypothyroidism. In any case, pet owners who truly love their pets should know the risks associated with pet obesity.

The most serious obesity-related problems in pets are similar to those in humans. One is arthritis or the accelerated wear and tear on joints. Pets can also develop insulin resistance and eventually, diabetes, which is irreversible. The most well-known complication is heart and respiratory disease, which can eventually lead to heart failure. What’s more, obese pets live up to 2 years less than their healthy counterparts.

Other than a rounded belly, signs a pet may be struggling with weight issues include labored breathing, lack of energy, and sluggish movement. Obese pets can also develop skin problems like dermatitis because they can’t anymore groom themselves properly.

Fit, Not Fat

Truly though, some pets do have a knack for working the chubbiness factor. With such capacity for charm, any owner would find it hard to believe their pet was actually getting too fat for its own good. Owners who don’t know what obese looks like will benefit from learning how to score their pet’s body condition.

Body condition score guidelines can become specific for each type of pet, but the general vet’s advice is to try and feel a pet’s ribs. The ribs should be easily located without having to put pressure on the pet’s body. If this cannot be easily achieved, chances are the pet is fat. Another way to tell is to look down at the pet from above and see if the pet has a bulging waistline or a circular shape.

Experts will say that consistent exercise and a balanceddiet are key to taking a pet from fat to fit. This means regulating the amount and quality of food and treats the pet receives, cutting out between-meal snacks, and providing physical activities appropriate for the pet. Dogs can have walks, runs in the park, and Frisbee chases. Cats can play with interactive toys like lasers. Rabbits should be given access to a space where they can run around securely. Birds can be given a mini-gym or be made to forage for their food or treats. The exercise options can be endless as owners become further involved in their pets’ exercise regimens.

Obesity in pets is highly preventable, in fact far easier to prevent than to treat. While pets should be treated and loved like family, owners should do so without compromising their pet’s unique health needs. With the help of a trusted vet, owners can keep their pets in the pink of health and get to grips with the weighty issue of obesity so that they can enjoy a longer and better life with their beloved bundles of fur.


Author: Jordan Walker

Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet-related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages.